Kat Lazo: I’m going to ask you, do you know what the difference between Latina or Hispanic and Spanish is?
Speaker 2: Not really.
Speaker 3: Umm…
Speaker 4: Between Latina, Hispanic, and Spanish…
Speaker 5: Umm…
Speaker 3: I’m going to have to say where they live?
Kat Lazo: Okay, geographic …
Speaker 3: Geographic.
Speaker 4: I mean, they’re just different ethnicities, between Mexican and Latin America to European?
Kat Lazo: That was confusing. The general public and the media use both of these terms interchangeably, but there is a slight difference. Hispanic is a term that refers to Spanish speaking origin or ancestry. Latino is a more frequently used term which refers to origin or ancestry to Latin America.
Speaker 6: Does Latino mean someone who speaks Spanish, because in the case of Brazilians who speak Portuguese?
Kat Lazo: Hispanic is basically based on whether you or you family speak the language of Spanish. Whereas Latino is focusing more on geographic location. That being Latin America. So, unlike Hispanic, Latino includes Brazilians but excludes Spaniards.
Speaker 7: I hate when people call me Spanish, because I’m not.
Kat Lazo: Okay.
Speaker 7: You’re Spanish because you’re from Spain.
Speaker 5: Spanish is from Spain.
Kat Lazo: Yes!
Speaker 5: Like conquistador type thing. Europe.
Speaker 6: I know a lot of people when they enter somewhere, they hear someone’s Spanish, they’re like, “Oh, they’re Spanish.” I’m like, “No, they spoke Spanish to you. That does not mean that they’re from Spain.”
Kat Lazo: For starters, Spanish describes someone who comes from Spain. It’s a term of nationality, but it’s also a language. Think of Italian. It’s a language, but it’s also a nationality.
Which one is Latina?
(Three famous women are shown on screen. They each have different complexions and hair types.)
Speaker 8: (Pointing to one of the women and speaking in Spanish) No, she’s not Latina.
Kat Lazo: (Speaking in Spanish) Why is she not Latina?
Speaker 8: (Speaking in Spanish) Because of her facial features.
Kat Lazo: (Speaking in Spanish) By facial features you mean she has more… (In English) African features.
Speaker 8: Yes.
Speaker 9: (Looking at the same photo and speaking in Spanish) She doesn’t look Latina or Hispanic.
Speaker 5: She looks black.
Kat Lazo: Can you be black and be Latina?
Speaker 5: I believe so, but some people of Latin descent are like, “No, we’re different.”
Kat Lazo: Those are the ones that have been colonized.
Speaker 5: I’m not even going to disagree with you there.
Speaker 7: I think they all could be Latina. I feel like they all could be Hispanic. They all could be Spanish, too. You don’t know.
Kat Lazo: Yes! Perfect! You can’t really tell just by a person’s face whether they’re Latino, Hispanic, or Spanish.
Because many Latin American countries, like those of my parents, Colombia and Peru, were colonized by Spain, many folks don’t feel the need or don’t want to identify with a term that indicates them belonging to Spain.
Maybe you can think of it this way:
Hispanic: a sense of community through a connection to Spain.
Latino: a sense of community through a history of colonization from Spain.
Colonization isn’t something that we just read about in our text books. We feel the effects of centuries of colonization today. Through lost history, erasure of Native and African languages, faith practices. Basically our culture.
So it’s no wonder why so many folks just don’t want to identify with the term Hispanic. That doesn’t mean that Latino doesn’t have any remnants of Spanish colonialism. I mean, Latino and Latina is supposed to describe folks from Latin America, but the term Latin America only came to be after European Spanish imperialism.
It’s important to remember that none of these forms of identity are perfect. And that’s because they’re socially constructed and mostly only used in the US.
They also lead people to assume that Latino or Hispanic is a race when that’s not true. Which is why so many Latinos with African ancestry have begun to use the term Afro-Latina.
As for me, until a term that comes around that fully encompasses and embraces both indigenous and African influences of Latin America, I’m going to stick to identifying as an indigenous Latina.
How do you identify? How do you feel about the terms Latino, Hispanic, and Spanish? Let me know in the comments down below.